The Spring Teller

Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-906307-76-9

Every spring has its own song – from potent legendary wells to inspiring new sources. Listening to the voice of each one, world renowned poet Valerie Gillies composed a new poem to fit. “The Spring Teller” records the author’s remarkable journey across Scotland, which took over three years and included visits to over a hundred springs. Each thought-provoking poem mirrors the flow of the water, from still wells locked in the inner city to the free-flowing springs of mountain or glen. In ten sections Gillies’ poetry captures the mineral properties of these springs and explores them as sites of healing and cleansing, as places of pilgrimage and modern meetings, of connection between human and nature and, through her own form of poetic environmental activism, expresses how we should preserve these natural wonders.”The Spring Teller” contains an intriguing introduction, landmark poems and a new map to help the reader visit these memorable places, while the photographs show the beauty of each spring. This book is a unique guide to the locations of springs in Scotland, their history and folklore and an exploration of their mysterious properties.


“I learned that Gillies was walking all over Scotland and parts of Ireland to healing springs and wells. The Spring Teller is her poignant and powerful account of finding these places … I need guides that aid me in flying out of myself to locations that inform and stretch my world. Valerie Gillies is such a guide.”

Ted Bowman, Minnesota. Northwords Now review, Issue 23, Spring 2013

Valerie Gillies

Valerie Gillies is an internationally known and highly regarded poet. She was the Edinburgh Maker, poet laureate to the city, 2005 – 2008. Her poetry collections include Tweed Journey (1989) which has been described as “a key text in contemporary writing” (SB Kelly). Other award-winning volumes include Each Bright Eye (1977), The Ringing Rock (1995) and The Lightning Tree (2002). She is a regular contributor to major anthologies. Valerie writes in regions from the Borders to the Highlands, from the Inner Hebrides to the Angus glens, from Orkney to Galloway. She often works collaboratively with visual artists, notably in a series of poem-inscriptions with different sculptors at sites in southern Scotland. The book Men and Beasts: Wild Men and Tame Animals of Scotland (2000), together with the touring exhibition of the same name, was the result of a year-long collaboration with the photographer Rebecca Marr. She received a Creative Scotland Award in 2005 to write The Spring Teller, a book of landmark poems inspired by Scotland’s wells and springs (Luath, 2008). Valerie is an inspirational teacher of creative writing in schools, colleges, and universities, and she has held several writing fellowships across the country. She is a literary arts practitioner in psychiatric and general hospitals with Artlink. She has edited the Scottish Poetry Library’s first-ever Poetry Map of Scotland, which maps locations and living poets on their interactive website. Valerie lives in Edinburgh with her husband, the Celtic scholar Professor William Gillies. They have a son and two daughters.